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New Year, Old Issues

New Year, Old Issues

Welcome back! This week, both the House of Representatives and the Senate are in session following their holiday break. Below are some highlights from the first week back:

The State of the Union Marches On … House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) formally invited President Biden to deliver the State of the Union on March 7, 2024. March is unusually late for the State of the Union, which is generally given to a joint session of Congress in January or February. President Biden’s address will follow the January 19 and February 2 deadlines to pass packages aimed at avoiding a government shutdown. It will also come two days after Super Tuesday, when the greatest number of U.S. states hold primary elections and caucuses. Approximately one-third of all delegates for the presidential nominating conventions can be won on Super Tuesday, more than on any other primary election day. State of the Union addresses are not meant as political speeches, however during election years, they often veer closer to campaign speeches than usual. President Biden will talk about a number of international and domestic policies. We anticipate the President discussing his administration’s “junk fees” initiative, which AFSA has addressed in comments to the FTC.

Speaking of the Speaker: Over the weekend, Speaker Johnson announced that a spending deal had been reached with the White House. The new deal would keep the spending levels adopted last summer as part of a debt ceiling deal while engaging in spending cuts, including $10 billion to the IRS mandatory funding and a $6.1 billion clawback of unspent COVID-19 funds. The spending levels, favored by the Democrats, and the spending cuts, favored by the Republicans, ensured bipartisan support. However, Speaker Johnson did not escape criticism from his colleagues on both sides of the Capitol, both explicit and implicit.

Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX), a member of the House Freedom Caucus, on a new Motion to Vacate: “That’s not the road I prefer,” Congressman Roy said on CNN. “I didn’t prefer to go down that road with Speaker McCarthy. We need to figure out how to get this all done together. But it isn’t good, and there’s a lot of my colleagues who are pretty frustrated about it, so we’ll see what happens this week.”

Senate Leadership on a Continuing Resolution: Just two months after Speaker Johnson declared he was finished with short-term continuing resolutions; Senate GOP Leadership has a different view. “Obviously we’re going to have to pass a CR,” Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY) told reporters on Tuesday. Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) weighed in as well, cautioning “We’re not going to get all the appropriations bills done by the coming deadline.”

With a razor thin majority and a deliberative Senate, avoiding a partial government shutdown without a continuing resolution will be a difficult job for the new Speaker.

Bordering on a Deal: A small group of Senators, including Michael Bennet (D-CO), James Lankford (R-OK), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) have been working with the White House for the past few months on reaching a deal that pairs southern border policy changes with Ukraine supplemental funding. While legislative text is unlikely to be released this week, Senator Lankford indicated progress had been made in the new year on some of the outstanding issues. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke about the deal on the Senate floor, saying that negotiators “made more progress in the past couple of days on the border than we have in the past few weeks.”

Should a bipartisan bill pass the Senate, it might have difficulty passing the House. Some Republican members have indicated they will not support a compromise bill. Senator Lankford is planning on meeting with some of those members this week to discuss the potential deal. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) called Senator Lankford “a goalie on a dart team” as he works to thread the needle between both parties and chambers on this bill.

January 11th, 2024 by

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